11/5/09

B.L.O.G. Presents They Call Her Cleopatra Wong (1978)


Take two ounces of blaxploitation, an ounce of James Bond, a quarter cup of Bruce Lee style kung fu, add in spices from Singapore, The Philippines, and Hong Kong, finish it off with a hot chick, and what do you get? Well, generally, you get a strange looking concoction that begs you to kill it, but every once in a while, if you combine everything just so, you can get a film like They Call Her Cleopatra Wong. Let me just say right off that, like Death Bed: The Bed that Eats, this is a film I picked up from Cinema de Bizarre on title alone. I didn’t need to know who was in it, what it was about, or when it was made. All I needed to know was how soon I could get it to my house so I could watch it. Unfortunately, it arrived right at the beginning of October, and it just didn’t seem like a Halloween type title. So finally, I get a chance to see it, and let me tell you, it does not disappoint.

Produced in in 1978, They Call Her Cleopatra Wong starred Marrie Lee, the stage name given to Doris Young Siew Keen. This was Lee’s first film which she got when she responded to a newspaper ad that read, “Are you smart, sexy, and seductive?” The ad was placed by BAS film productions headed up by director Bobby A. Suarez. The company was looking for a girl who could ride a motorcycle, and Lee, who auditioned in a miniskirt and heeled boots, landed the part. When the film went into production, she was given the name Marrie Lee, and for years, people would ask her if she was indeed Bruce’s Younger sister.

They Call Her Cleopatra Wong is, as you would think, all about Cleopatra Wong, Singapore’s top policewoman and agent for INTERPOL. Cleo is out to bring down a ring of counterfeiters determined to bankrupt five Asian countries by destabilizing their currency. She travels to Singapore where she passes some of the counterfeit bills, and soon is picked up by the gang who intend to kill her, but their best fighters are no match for Cleopatra Wong. After a quick escape, it’s time to head out for Hong Kong and the Philippines as Miss Wong keeps on the trail of the phony money. She eventually tracks down the headquarters of the operation located inside of a convent staffed by machine gun toting nuns. INTERPOL teams Cleo up with four other top female agents to form a strike force known as the Super Sirens, and the new team forms an attack on the fake convent. The nuns carrying guns is not the only secret this headquarters hides, and when the Super Sirens finally face down the three big bosses, it’s up to Cleopatra Wong to save the day.

I’ve been having a lot of fun catching up on horror flicks and all, but it’s been quite some time since I saw an action film that was quite so over the top fun. I swear that for most of the film not more than five minutes goes by before Cleo is kicking someone’s ass. I mean this gal can do anything, and they prove it in the opening sequence. She’s a deadeye with a bow and arrow, better with a gun, a master of karate, and a master on the disco dance floor. If I weren’t a happily married Bugg, Marrie Lee would definitely rank up there as perfect mate material. Lee is not only good looking throughout; she makes all the action scenes look great too. From what I’ve read, she wasn’t shy about doing her own stunts, and the few places where it should have been a double, it really added something when you could see it was her throughout.

There’s not really anyone else built up in this film to be a character, and I really wish that Cleo had been given a supporting cast to interact with, not just beat up. It might have stymied the frenetic pace of the film, but a little character development goes a long way. The baddies are all entertaining, but it’s hard to say if that’s a result of the acting or the bad dubbing. The problem is that the two things that hold this film back for me are in opposition.If there were more quiet scenes of character development, it would just lead to more scenes with poor dubbing. The problem is the clichéd gripe of the standup comedian, the words and the actors mouths seem to be in two different films. So occasionally they keep talking when the dialog is done or, even worse, their mouths are flapping and no sound is coming out. It didn’t really take away from the film as much as prove to be more distracting than I would have liked. I would really like to get my hands on a nice subtitled version of this one someday, but with the rarity of this gem, that may never happen. Don’t let the dub job scare you off from this one. It’s well worth checking out even if the soundtrack is off a bit and, thankfully, at least the voice actors mesh well with the characters.

The last thing I have to talk about was the producer director Bobby A, Suarez. Now here’s a guy who never met an exploitation film he didn’t like. With films like They Call Him Chop-Suey and Asian Cosa Nostra on his résumé, you can probably see what I mean. Cleopatra Wong is actually the first of a trilogy by Suarez, and you best believe that I’m going to have the other two, Dynamite Johnson and Devil’s Three, high up on my wish list. It’s not that Suarez is a great director, far from it. There were plenty of directors working with similar material who made much better films, but something about the whole cut rate style gives the film a certain charm that I really liked.

Cleopatra Wong is a film that kicks off, and doesn’t let you go until the last frame. If you like martial acts, action films, kick ass chicks, blaxploitation soundtracks, and nuns with guns, then this is definitely a film for you. (Paging Rev. Phantom) If you think the miscued dubbing would be too much for you, then you might want to avoid it, but I heartily encourage you to give it a shot. After all, are there many times that you’ll get to see a woman in an orange, skintight bodysuit with hot pants beat up four or five guys at once? If I haven‘t got you sold on this film yet then let me throw out one last tid bit. Quentin Tarantino has said that Cleopatra Wong was one of his inspirations for Kill Bill, and if it’s good enough for Quentin, then it’s more than good enough for this here Bugg. Head on over to Cinema de Bizarre and pick up a copy, but don’t forget to tell them the Bugg sent ya.

Bugg Rating


No trailer to speak of, but here's a clip. This one is the opening title sequence, but don't go to the website advertised looking for the film. It's not there, just lots of Asian porn.

2 comments:

  1. I am totally sold on this, and I'm kicking myself for missing your showing. It sounds great!

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  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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